When the kids were littler, Mark and I would load them into the double jogger or onto our back or into the bike trailer every evening after dinner. During those years of wakeful nights and tired bodies, we used that time to share our day-happenings and day-dreams. Often, we welcomed silence, soothed by the rhythm of foot and gravel. The kids shared in their own peaceful rides, the fading light dancing across their eyelids, the changing world whispering lullabies. (Nothing ever seemed to calm my babies as well as being with us in the outdoors.) At the time, these family walks seemed as small nothings. Years later, those walks have become sacred to me, moments bottled and reserved in my heart. I know now, they were a gift. They were establishing our family.
Although we are sleeping well at night now and I’m no longer nursing or pregnant, it seems harder to maintain simple family rituals, even easy family walks. At every turn there seems to be another opportunity to wedge a new or better something into our routine– extra work, another home project, a new activity, a new friend. These are all good things, by the way. But if I’m not careful, they can sometimes distract me from the sweetness of the present, of being right where I am. And honestly, sometimes when the kids are grumpy or bickering or somehow I’m not accomplishing my TO DOs, I can and do wish to be elsewhere. I am human after all. Still, this season with our children full of rich questions and wild imagination and new attitudes and adventure is also a gift. Our daily rituals don’t always divide up as neatly as before, but these days are dense with goodness if I’ll look for them.
Last week the kids helped me make gluten-free pancakes with bananas and bacon and orange-carrot juice–a slower, more intentional weekend meal. Mark pulled an old table we inherited with the house into the backyard for an impromptu breakfast al fresco. Two of the kids argued right before eating, delaying the meal. They recovered and so did the meal and our enjoyment of one another. Olive left the table just after finishing to ride her bike in the lawn. Soon the other kids followed, playing beneath the green canopy in our yard. Mark and I enjoyed the rest of our meal and coffee together, our words drifting on the wind between us. Somewhere deep inside of me, another bottle is sealed and labeled.